Grab yourself a cup of tea and get comfy as this is a long one, but if you are planning a trip to indonesia, or like pictures of beautiful desert islands then it is definitely worth a few minutes of your time. Ready?
If you are on your way to Bali, you must, MUST consider going just a little bit further and heading over to the Gili Islands. Just off the coast of Lombok, the Gilis are three tiny deposits of sand that reach up out of the water and wave their arms beckoning you to them.
There are no cars, no motorbikes and no buildings over two floors high. Just miles of undisturbed sea, sand and sunshine.
There are a few ways to get to the Gilis and the most popular is boat. We caught a boat from Ahmed on the east coast of Bali, which is the shortest crossing route and only took about 45 minutes on the water, but you can go from other parts of Bali too.
Tip 1: Make sure you get a fast boat. They are more expensive but they will save you an unnecessary day of being thrown about at sea.
Tip 2: Be prepared for the boat operators – they are a bit dubious. Our boat was delayed; firstly we were told because of wind, which turned out to be a lie. Then we were told the boat had a fault and we wouldn’t be able to go out that day. Luckily for us, our hotel owner came to the rescue and negotiated that we could travel on the other boat service that ran from Ahmed. They reluctantly agreed, but not before trying to put us off telling us the new company were overloading their boats and we would be sure to sink and drown!
However, we continued undeterred and were very pleased we had. With the wind in our hair our boat sped us towards our new destination. Our first stop was at Gili Trawangan (or Gili T for ease of pronunciation) which is the largest and liveliest of the islands. There are plenty of bars and parties on this little island.
Despite wanting to jump into the unbelievably beautiful aquamarine water, this was not our stop and we watched as the island shrunk away behind us.
Only a few minutes later we pulled up at the next island in the chain – Gili Meno. This is the quietest of the islands, but with some of the best beaches of all three.
Again this wasn’t our stop. We stayed on for another few minutes, until our island Gili Air came into view.
Can you believe this! A whole island in just one picture!
Tip 3: When we travelled, Bali was a malaria free zone, and so you didn’t need tablets. However, we did need them for Lombok and the Gilis. This of course can change, so you’ll need to check with your travel nurse before you go.
We jumped off our boat, and hailed a cidomo- a horse drawn carriage.
They are one of only three forms of transport on the islands – the other two being bicycle and foot!
We had booked our accommodation in advance but if I was going back i’d do it a bit different.
Tip 4: Research two or three options before you go then when you jump in a cidomo, you will have an address to give. When you get there, do a bit of haggling. You can get a much better rate on the day.
The majority of accommodation is very basic. We stayed in a beach front bungalow with a bathroom under the stars!
We dumped our bags, and hit the beach which was just at the end of this path. Keen to explore we headed down the beach, paddling in the bathtub warm water.
Within an hour, we found ourselves back to where we had started!
One of the best things about the Gilis is that there really is very little to do. Our key activities were eating and drinking, admiring the view and swimming and relaxing.
One day we booked a boat trip to take us snorkelling. Tip 5: It is worth hiring your own boat and skipper rather than going on an arranged trip. It is not expensive, and you are the captain of your trip!
Here’s our vessel, which had a glass bottom so we could see the fish and turtles beneath us.
We swam and snorkelled for most of the day, being guided to the best locations by our Captain. Sadly, much of the coral has died so there isn’t much colour, but there are a lot of bright fish and giant turtles which swim passed serenely paddling their flippers (paws, legs, fins?) but moving at a surprisingly fast pace.
And stopped off at Gili Meno for a drink and snack.
Before jumping back on to the boat.
And heading back to our peaceful island and a snooze on the beach.